Set in a post-literate America, a society dominated by Images and Retail, and where the only measures of one’s value are one’s data — Credit and Fuckability ratings — Super Sad True Love Story is simultaneously hysterical and achingly painful.
Lenny, already “old” at thirty-nine, works for a company whose promise for the ultra rich is immortality. But America has become a police state, where an ultra-right-wing dictator and a single party reign over an economy that has collapsed and is in thrall to the Chinese.
The novel was published in 2010. But it’s uncanny how timely it feels today — in Trump’s America. Round up the immigrants, save the wealthy, dispose of everyone else. It’s as if Shteyngart was channeling George Orwell for 2017 America.
Do I love this novel? No. I find it very difficult to “love” a book when there’s not a single character I care about (not even Lenny, I’m afraid). But the characters here are supposed to be awful, so that’s not a failing of the novel. It’s an extremely smart book, and very well written. And at a time when the absurdities in Shteyngart’s novel don’t seem that much more absurd than our own news stories today, it’s one people should read as a cautionary tale.
It’s not a surprise that Orwell’s 1984 is a bestseller again today. That’s what our society is coming to. Super Sad True Love Story should be next to Orwell’s classic on your shelf.